Bally Sagoo is the original trailblazer and innovator behind numerous platinum selling albums, from the Asian Underground scene which exploded in the early nineties to today’s world of global sounds. Fusing traditional flavors from the Indian subcontinent with elements of R&B, Reggae and Dance music, he continues to attract a wide yet very discerning audience.
Born in New Delhi, India in May 1964, Bally moved to England very soon afterwards with his musically talented parents. Before the age of 10, he was using his hi-fi to create mix-tapes in the bedroom he called “Curry Wood Studios”. Growing up in Balsall Heath Birmingham UK (an area that was rapidly diversifying with an influx of immigrants), most of Bally’s friends were black and their cultural influence became evident in his creations. As he was not solely drawn to traditional Indian music – there was a passion and curiosity for reggae, R&B and disco sounds his friends were into. Bally credits the impact of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Off The Wall’ album on his creative output.
Producing mix-tapes in the early eighties he was often found dee-jaying at local events. By day Bally worked as an electronic products salesman, while at night he would continue developing his skills by fashioning remixes of English tracks. So prolific was his output that it was just a matter of time before Bally’s talent was noticed and local record label Oriental Star Agency gave him the opportunity to remix a track called Hey Jamalo, (sung by Legend Malkit Singh). The song was a monstrous hit and resulted in Bally being signed to the label as a producer. His first album in 1990 Wham Bam, became the first of many monumental successes.
Oriental Star Agency also represented the legendary maestro Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and the concept of a Nusrat and Bally Qawwali led to the seminal 1991 release Magic Touch,. While Bally was well known among younger followers in the club scene, his work with Nusrat legitimized him in the eyes of more mature audiences. At the same time, Bally was responsible for introducing Nusrat to a wider audience and giving them a context in which they could relate to and appreciate ‘Sufi’ music. The album accurately depicts Bally Sagoo as a producer who brought diverse musical elements together, each track resonated with an ambience that is consistent with modern tastes and yet the classical qualities of the Qawwali tradition are still celebrated.
Bally credits Oriental Star for a lot of his early success. “My first break came through Oriental Star Agencies and I produced many albums with them”, he reveals. Most of these were ground-breaking platinum releases that have had an impact not only on audiences but also on many up-and-coming artists.
Bally’s commercial success grew rapidly from this point on. In 1994 he signed a major deal with Sony Music, producing the biggest Indian remix album of all time ‘Bollywood Flashback’ and becoming the first Indian artist to be play-listed on national mainstream radio when Chura Liya was played on the UK’s Radio One. The album also included remixes of other Bollywood classics as Bally captured the imagination of the younger audiences with his Indian-flavored Dance and Hip-Hop fusions. Chura Liya is often credited as being a ground- breaking track with a lasting influence on many artists in the Indian music scene.
Bally’s next venture Rising from the East (1996), produced gems like Dil Cheez and Tum Bin Jiya - songs that became chart hits in the UK billboard charts. Bally performed on national television programs including the BBC’s “Top Of the Pops” which was unprecedented for an artist of Indian origin. In 1996, he supported Michael Jackson on his History tour of India and had the unique opportunity and experience of producing Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s album. He was then bestowed with a rare honor – in 1997 he was invited to the palace in New Delhi to meet the late Indian President Shankar Dayal Sharma in recognition of his achievements.
Bally proceeded to create his own label: Ishq Records. This independence gave him greater creative control over the kind of projects he wished to pursue - a smaller number of projects producing quality music that would target niche segments while carrying some cross-over appeal. He released Dub of Asia in 1999 which he describes as “Chillout Lounge CD….dub, deep bass lines and a few Indian vocals”. Ishq Records’ successes included the discovery of singer Gunjan, who performed on the smash hit Noorie on the 2000 release, Bollywood Flashback 2.
Sagoo has also produced music for many Bollywood films and also for mainstream movies like Bend It Like Beckham, Mistress Of Spice, Monsoon Wedding and It’s A Wonderful Afterlife. He even debuted as the star lead role and gave the music to Brit Asian movie ‘Sajana Ve Sajana’(2006).
In 2012, Bally installed a new base of operations in Mumbai, where readily draws on fresh talent for his new projects. ‘Future Shock’ was released in early 2013 under his new label ‘Fresh Dope Records’. ‘Thori Ji Kori’ was the lead single released from the album in March 2013.
With plans for a new and exciting era of productions, Bally’s commitment to innovate and challenge musical perceptions and traditions is as strong today as it was in the Underground days. This dedication will be highlighted in the launch of his new album to be released early 2015 and a groundbreaking partnership single coming April 2015.
In Bally’s own words “Music is IT, it’s my life. The ability to create sounds that provide my fans memories and moments in their lives, is the greatest honor I could hope for and one I thank God for”.